Thursday, March 22, 2007

The Process of Resurrection

For Paul the resurrection stands at the center of the Christian faith. Without the resurrection then our preaching is in vain, and our faith is in vain as well (1 Cor. 15:12ff). Our own resurrections, Paul asserts are caught up in Christ's resurrection. No wonder Easter stands at the center of Christian experience.

In a scientific age that looks for that which is historically or scientifically verifiable, the resurrection is a difficult concept to embrace. Talk of empty tombs and such, well, that is so far back in history. Discoveries of Jesus' tomb are more conjecture than historical proofs. As a historian, I put great stock in what history demonstrates, but I also know that the historical record is not just incomplete, it is a finite discipline dependent on human records and observations, combined with what we believe is possible. Now, talk of resurrection becomes difficult. Still, I find the hope of the resurrection to be central to my faith.

In thinking about the resurrection, in anticipation of Easter, I did a bit of reading around in my books. I plan to offer some more quotes, but being that I'm a Moltmann fan, I had to start with an excerpt from his writings.


When we talk about Christ's resurrection from the dead we are not talking about a fact. We are talking about a process. We are talking in one and the same breath about the foundation, the future and the practical exercise of God's liberation of men and women, and his redemption of the world. So what we can know historically about Christ's resurrection must not be abstracted from the question of what we can hope from it, and what we have to do in its name. Kant made this intrinsic connection clear. It is only in living unity of knowing, hoping and doing that Christ's resurrection must be understood in its true historical sense. (Jurgen Moltmann, Jesus Christ for Today's World, Fortress, 1994, pp. 79-80).



Here I think Moltmann is talking about the transformative nature of resurrection. It's not simply belief in a doctrine, it is letting God's life transform us and empower us to serve the world in which we live. I will publish further paragraphs that hopefully will extend this idea of resurrection.

5 comments:

daverichards said...

This is really interesting to read...thanks for sharing this with us...and well as Easter is also approaching fast do drop by my blog on Easter Wishes sometime and share all the fun and joy it's filled up with!!!

Steven Carr said...

Early Jesus-worshippers in Corinth scoffed at the idea of God choosing to raise a corpse, although they clearly accepted that Jesus was not dead.

Paul tells them that they will be resurrected like Jesus was, and reminds them that Jesus became a life-giving spirit.

Paul makes a dichotom between earthly things, such as their body now, and heavenly things, of which the resurrected being will be one.

His letter to the Corinthians assumes that one does not turn into the other, no more than a fish can turn into the moon.

This must have puzzled the Corinthians, for Paul had to write a second letter to them, explaining that it doesn't matter if the earthly body is destroyed, because we will get a heavenly body in its place.

Paul would have been shocked by the thought that Jesus corpse rose from the grave.

Paul , after all, was a person who wanted to be rescued from his present body (Romans 7:24)

DaNutz said...

I like what Moltmann says here and your interpretation is perfect. I am a little confused about your personal view on the details when I factor in what you have said elsewhere.

I feel that Moltmann is clearly stating the resurrection is not to be taken as a historic event but as a symbolic story.

The resurrection story is a "true myth" that presents great truth about how a life lived in sacrifice can actually have results far greater than individual sacrifice as it works to transform our collective efforts. It says that Jesus still lives in our hearts and minds and transforms us. This fits with the "process" idea.

I'm not sure about Paul. His language certainly can be made to fit that metaphorical view as well (dying to self, a bright light/awakening/knowledge which shakes us and transforms us completely, etc). However, knowing what we know about Paul I do suspect he may have actually imagined that it literally happened and that the vision he had which changed his life was literally a resurrected Jesus. He was a pharisee and they were thought to hold a belief in after-life (i.e. literal resurrection).

Maybe the idea is to not worry about what "really" happened? The Buddha would say not to think about such things. Marcus Borg would say "believe what you want about the empty tomb", but he would also acknowledge that he himself didn't think it literally happened.

Maybe I shouldn't try to pin you down but I am curious about your specific view.

Pastor Bob Cornwall said...

I will try to post some more of Moltmann on this. I don't think he goes with the symbolic view of a Borg, but isn't as focused on the history as a Pannenberg.

As for my personal view. I do think that something happened to Jesus and not just to the disciples. Now, as to the nature of what happened, I'm trying to work on that. I'm going to post when I get a chance a bit from Ted Peters a scientifically savvy Lutheran theologian. As I went reading through him this morning, I found what he had to say very cogent!

Mystical Seeker said...

I agree with Steven Carr's analysis. Also, remember that Paul did not distinguish in kind from his own experience of the resurrected Jesus--which was visionary in nature--and how Peter, James, and others experienced the resurrected Jesus. This suggests that Paul believed that Peter, James and others had visions of Jesus, not that they actually saw a physically resurrected Jesus walking around on the earth.

Note that Paul wrote his letters a few decades before there were any gospel accounts of a physically resurrected Jesus walking on earth. The first Gospel, Mark, wrote about Jesus's resurrection, but contained no stories of literal appearances. It wasn't until Luke and Matthew, writing some 50 years after Jesus died, that we get the first stories of any literal physical resurrection. So I don't think that Paul believed in the kind of resurrection that Luke and Matthew described.